SEATTLE — A new coalition of small businesses are teaming up to help foster kids during the back-to-school season.
More than 10,000 children are currently in the foster care system in Washington state and those students typically struggle a social and emotional battle their peers don’t understand. School supplies can be costly — and self confidence is priceless during adolescence.
Friends of Southpaw is an expanding network of businesses and service providers who are coming together to support foster kids and their families with reduced or no-cost services.
Friends of Southpaw was started by the owner of Southpaw Barbershop in West Seattle.
Tommy Andrade has been offering free haircuts to foster families for years and decided to increase his efforts when he realized the distances that foster families drove to get to West Seattle. So, he start a collaboration of businesses who could provide services throughout the region.
Andrade has partnered with Barber Jeff Chou and the pair is leveraging their network of contacts to expand the support services they can offer to foster families.
Free hair cuts are being offered from Everett to Olympia and now many other services are being offered at no cost or at substantial discount for foster kids and their family, such as swim lessons, therapy, acupuncture, auto repair, construction and more.
Andrade says the foster care experience is personal for him as he grew up in Texas with several friends being raised in foster care. He even experienced homelessness when he was 16 and says the Big Brother program helped him find a mentor who he says changed his life.
The newly formed coalition was launched in time for back to school season and Andrade says more and more partners are stepping up with several out of state.
“We’ve got friends in Portland now and a couple in Texas," he said of their reach.
Marcia Jacobs, the communications manager for Amara, says the Southpaw efforts are helping families in need, and raising more awareness about the importance of foster families and the struggles they face.
“It’s so inspiring when people like Tommy and Jeff step up with creative support. There are an estimated 8,000 kids in Washington state that are in the foster care system and a little more than half of them are being placed with extended family and close family friends — which is called called kinship care — and Amara is one of the few agencies in the state directly serving kinship families," she said.
Friends of Southpaw wants more foster kids and their families to know about the ever-expanding network of services and would love more businesses and community partners to join the effort.
“Donating time and talents is something everyone can afford," Andrade said. "I’m excited to see how this will grown in the years to come."
Southpaw Barbershop is located at 3614 California Ave. SW in West Seattle.